Mint Julep Recipe- Try this 1860s favorite!

“They are, in fact, like the American ladies, irresistible.”

Mint Julep in classic julep cup and fresh mint sprigs


Try one of these delightful classic cocktail recipes from a popular 1860s bartenders guide. The mint julep, a traditionally American beverage made most popular in the Southern states, is symbolic of Southern hospitality and gentility. This potent drink was fondly remembered in British naval officer Captain Frederick Marryat’s travel diary of his tour of America. As a mint julep connoisseur, he apprised, “I must descant a little upon the mint julep, as it is, with the thermometer at 100 degrees, one of the most delightful and insinuating potations that ever was invented, and may be drank with equal satisfaction when the thermometer is as low as 70 degrees (1839).” Heed Captain Marryat’s advice and beat the summer heat by stirring up one of these delightful craft cocktails using original Civil War era recipes. As Jerry Thomas, author of the 1862 How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion, said; “they are, in fact, like the American ladies, irresistible.”



mint sprig

These classic drinks are a refreshing concoction of smooth bourbon or brandy, simple syrup and fragrant fresh mint poured over crushed ice and served elegantly in a distinctive sterling or pewter julep cup. While ingredients often remain the same, there is much discourse over the proper preparation of this traditional beverage. Some say these elements should be muddled together to release the flavor of the mint, while others insist mint leaves should remain intact as they believe that the distinctive essence should be smelled and not tasted. While traveling throughout America in 1842, Charles Dickens also exclaimed, “… the bowls of mint julep and sherry cobbler they make in these latitudes are refreshments never to be thought of afterwards, in summer, by those who would preserve contended minds.”


mortar and mint for mint julep


Mint Julep


(Use a large bar glass)
1 tablespoonful of white pulverized sugar
2 ½ tablespoonfuls of water, mix well with a spoon.

Take three or four sprigs of fresh mint and press them well in the sugar and water until the flavor of the mint is extracted. Add one and a half wine-glass of Cognac brandy and fill the glass with fine shaved ice. Then draw out the sprigs of mint and insert them in the ice with the stems downward so that the leaves will be above, in the shape of a bouquet. Arrange berries and small pieces of sliced orange on top in a tasteful manner, dash with Jamaica rum, and sprinkle white sugar on top. Place a straw and you have a julep that is fit for an emperor.

This quintessential summertime cocktail should be enjoyed properly, preferably while basking in the garden on a warm summer day. Add a little pizazz to the classic mint julep by experimenting with liquors and fruit garnishes.

An 1872 Food Journal stated, “One could scarcely offend an American more than by declining an invitation to drink. ... Americans are not wanting in the power of invention.” As such, there are a vast number of cocktail varieties to suit any palette, with the practice being “…to commence with a brandy or gin ‘cocktail’ before breakfast, by way of an appetiser. Subsequently a ‘digester’ will be needed; then in due course and at certain intervals, a ‘refresher,’ a ‘reposer,’ a ‘settler,’ a ‘cooler,’ an ‘invigerator,’ a ‘sparkler,’ and a ‘rouser,’ pending the final ‘nightcap,’ or midnight dram.”

No matter which variation you choose, when recreating this classic beverage, always remember to insert a cocktail straw and deeply inhale the aromatic scent of fresh mint and dream sweet memories of summers gone by as you take your first sip.


Hot to Make a Mint Julep

Hot to Make a Mint Julep

STEP ONE: To make a perfect Mint Julep, place a few springs of mint in a bowl. Cover with powdered sugar and enough water to cover sugar. Crush mint (or simply stir, as you prefer).


Hot to Make a Mint Julep

STEP TWO: Next, place mixture in bottom of tall glasses or silver Julep cups. Fill with shaved ice.


Hot to Make a Mint Julep

STEP THREE: Pour in a generous amount of Kentucky bourbon over the ice, stir briskly until the julep cup frosts, then add more ice till the glasses are brimming full. Garnish with a few sprigs of mint leaves. Then … settle back and sip the cool and fragrant classic Southern beverage.



1860s Variations of the Classic Mint Julep Recipe

Brandy Julep
(Use large bar glass)
The brandy julep is made with the same ingredients as the mint julep, omitting the fancy fixings.

Gin Julep
(Use large bar glass)
The gin julep is made with the same ingredients as the mint julep, omitting the fancy fixings.

Whiskey Julep
(Use large bar glass)
The whiskey julep is made with the same ingredients as the mint julep, omitting all fruits and berries

Pineapple Julep
(For a party of five)
Peel, slice, and cut up a ripe pineapple into a glass bowl, add the juice of two oranges, a gill of raspberry syrup, a gill of maraschino, a gill of old gin, a bottle of sparkling Moselle, and about a pound of pure ice in shaves; mix, ornament with berries in season, and serve in flat glasses.